David Blackburn passes away

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 29, 2008

NATCHEZ — For 18 years, David Blackburn has brought one of the greatest gifts to Natchez — the gift of music.

At 70 years old, the founding artistic director of the Natchez Festival of Music died Sunday night from what is believed to be either a heart attack or a stroke.

In Blackburn’s artistic career, he has received accolade upon accolade.

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Under his artistic direction, the festival of music received the Governor’s Award of Excellence and also recognition as one of the top 20 events in the Southeastern United States.

And for those who know Blackburn personally, the consensus is he will be sorely missed.

Ronald McGowan, chairman of the Natchez Festival of Music, said Natchez flourished under Blackburn’s artistic direction.

“He was a remarkable individual and he brought a lot to Natchez,” McGowan said. “He helped the community and he was just a wonderful person as well as a wonderful artistic director. He had so many connections in the music world.

“For a place like Natchez to have the caliber of music we have is all due to his efforts.”

Former chairman of the festival and Alcorn State University Chairman of the Department of Fine Arts Larry Konecky worked with Blackburn for several years.

He described Blackburn as a bold man who would take risks others wouldn’t.

“He did things that most people wouldn’t think about doing,” he said.

This includes taking his Alcorn choir, of which he was the director, to George W. Bush’s 2005 inauguration and to Carnegie Hall.

But his benefits to the community through the festival of music speaks volumes, Konecky said.

“He’s a strong force in the community, particularly with the Natchez Festival of Music,” Konecky said. “Every performance people would come out and say that’s the best show they’ve ever seen.”

His leadership at the helm of the festival will certainly be noticed, McGowan said.

“It won’t be easy, I tell you that,” he said of going on. “I know he would want it to go on.”